Tuesday, April 24, 2018

'Avengers: Infinity War' is Every Bit the Bantery Epic Spectacle You're Expecting

Posted By on Tue, Apr 24, 2018 at 8:32 PM

Black Widow, Captain America, The Incredible Hulk, Okoye and Black Panther lead the charge.
  • Black Widow, Captain America, The Incredible Hulk, Okoye and Black Panther lead the charge.
With so many story lines and so many characters crammed together on screen for this two-hour-and-forty-minute romp, Avengers: Infinity War (Part 1) has no choice but to explode with nonstop action and snappy dialogue from start to finish.

It's a testament to the screenwriters (and hometown-hero directors Anthony and Joe Russo) that they've assembled this unwieldy final product, which opens area wide Thursday evening, with — astonishingly — a good deal of narrative coherence and an entirely new roster of villains; led by Thanos, the WWE-muscled, lilac-tinted, scrotum-chinned alien voiced by Josh Brolin.

Like other maniacal villains, Thanos claims to have certain motives for the genocide that he intends to inflict upon the universe. But he's a fearsome superboss, with the smarts of Tony Stark, the mystic capabilities of Dr. Strange and the brute strength of the Incredible Hulk, a strength he happily demonstrates in an early scene.

As he hunts down the six sacred Infinity Stones over the course of the film, only the scattered Avengers — including the ragtag Guardians of the Galaxy, the full Wakandan military, Spider-Man and more, plus the usual suspects — might be able to summon the collective firepower to challenge him.

(Thanos, oddly enough, has more screen time than any character in Infinity War, though that's much more a function of the ensemble's enormous size than anything else.)

The marquee action sequences, including three climactic events staged concurrently, succeed both in their conceptual framework and their visual style. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Russo Brothers remain at the pinnacle for staging combat, particularly of the hand-to-hand variety. The humor is also ever-present, with our heroes delivering punchline after punchline in scenes designed to serve up memorable moments and laughs, relying on audiences' familiarity with previous films to achieve emotional resonance and depth. The third-act revelations are unlikely to produce anything more than dizziness for new audiences (of which are there are admittedly few.) 

The Russos' Captain America films (Winter Soldier and Civil War) have been earth-based, and in Infinity War the scenes on earth, including a majestic Wakandan battle, are visually much more appealing than those in outer space. The competing artistic styles and scenic terrains, cobbled together from at least eight prior MCU films and multiple visual effects studios, makes jumping around the universe especially jarring here. (The visual effects crews named in the closing credits would seem to substantially outnumber several Ohio counties.)  

But the Russos' affection for Captain America shines through. Chris Evans is lushly bearded as Steve Rogers, and his crew — older now, and wiser — gets the better half of the action in this first installment. As aliens descend upon Wakanda, Cap and T'challa lead the charge (see photo above), and the camera captures them sprinting at maximum speed toward their adversaries. It's an honest-to-goodness rush! 
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Watch 'Avengers: Infinity War' with the Directors, Cleveland's Russo Brothers, at the Cinematheque

Posted By on Tue, Apr 24, 2018 at 11:53 AM

  • Wikimedia Commons
Cleveland superhero fans are being given the opportunity of a lifetime, as Avengers: Infinity War directors Anthony and Joseph Russo are coming back to their old stomping grounds to share their newest film with their hometown.

On May 5th, the Cleveland Institute of Art and Cinematheque is hosting a film event entitled, "Russo-Rama." The nine-and-a-half-hour event is a triple-feature showing of the Russo brothers' Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. Don't worry, bathroom breaks and a dinner break will also be accounted for. After the screenings, the Russo brothers will be in attendance to hold a Q&A session on their work and career.

This is a full-circle event for the Russo Brothers as well, given that Anthony Russo once told Scene that the Cinematheque is "the most important movie theater in the world." This event also takes place over a week after Avengers: Infinity War debuts theatrically, so you'll have plenty of time to see the film 5-10 times before Russo-Rama.

Tickets to the May 5th event are $25 for The Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque members and $35 for nonmembers.

For more information and ticket purchasing, visit the Cinematheque's event page by clicking here.
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Monday, April 23, 2018

Cleveland Cinemas To Hold Memorial Screening of 'The Sax Man' on May 3rd

Posted By on Mon, Apr 23, 2018 at 1:19 PM


Clevelanders are still mourning the loss of "The Sax Man," Maurice Reedus Jr., a street musician who was a fixture of downtown's nightlife. To honor his life, Cleveland Cinemas is hosting a memorial screening of The Sax Man, Joe Siebert's documentary about Reedus and his legacy.

"The Sax Man has been the soundtrack to Cleveland for over 20 years. He was a cultural icon and a treasure to the city,” says Todd Bemak, Executive Producer of the film, in a press release from Cleveland Cinemas. “With every note, he touched our lives by bringing joy to our faces and warm memories to our hearts. I hope everyone will come celebrate his life and legacy with us at Tower City Cinemas on May 3rd.”

The Sax Man first premiered at the Cleveland International Film Festival in March of 2014, wining the “Local Heroes” award and playing to sold out crowds.

Tickets to The Sax Man are $10 and are on sale at the Tower City Cinemas box office and online at Additional donations for the funeral fund will be accepted at the theater that evening.

The Sax Man will play at Tower City Cinemas at 230 W. Huron Rd, Cleveland, OH on Thursday, May 3rd at 7:30 pm. Proceeds from ticket sales from this memorial screening will be donated to Reedus’ family to aid in his funeral expense.
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Calling All Cool Riders, 'Grease 2' is playing The Capitol Theatre on Wednesday

Posted By on Mon, Apr 23, 2018 at 10:59 AM

  • Paramount Pictures
Despite being considered a classic musical, Grease is quite possibly one of the worst films ever made. Luckily, the wonderful people at Cleveland Cinemas recognize the sheer cult brilliance of the film's successor and are screening the film on the big screen, just as God intended.

While the first Grease focused on romanticizing the idea that women need to change everything about themselves or they'll never be good enough to be loved by John Travolta, Grease 2 is a progressive and sex-positive jamboree featuring Michelle Pfieffer as an actual national treasure.

When Sandy from the first film's cousin Michael (played by Empire Records' Rex Manning himself, Maxwell Caulfield) arrives at Rydell High, he is immediately smitten by Pfieffer's devil may care attitude and ferocious independence. He takes it upon himself to learn how to ride a motorcycle and get in touch with his "tougher" side in an attempt to impress the girl of his dreams. No one is telling him to get this makeover, he's doing it for himself and hoping Stephanie falls in love with the new him as much as he has.

With catchy tunes like "Score Tonight," "Girl For All Seasons," "Prowlin," and the bad-bitch anthem "Cool Rider," Grease 2 is a must-see for fans of cult cinema and rock 'n roll musicals.

Grease 2 plays The Capitol Theatre at 7 pm on Wednesday, April 25th. Tickets are available by clicking here.
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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Trailer Be Damned: 'I Feel Pretty' is Still a Problematic Clusterfuck

Posted By on Thu, Apr 19, 2018 at 1:00 PM

  • STX Entertainment
When the trailer for the Amy Schumer-driven body image satire I Feel Pretty debuted online, the internet was furious. The film looked like a gender-bent version of Shallow Hal with internalized misogyny in contrast to old-fashioned male chauvinism. Luckily, I Feel Pretty is not nearly as offensive as the trailer would make the film out to be, but it's still a problematic clusterfuck that has absolutely no concept of how the real world works.

Amy Schumer stars as a woman named Renee who has been gaslighted to the point that she believes she's too unattractive and uninteresting to ever be successful. Playing a self-loathing woman living in a world where everyone appears to be smarter, faster, thinner and prettier allows for audiences to immediately identify with the character, because I've yet to meet a woman in my life who wasn't also painfully insecure and feeling destroyed by society's unrealistic standards of beauty.

However, all of this changes when Renee hits her head at a SoulCycle class (because of course it had to be fucking SoulCycle) and suddenly perceives herself as the most gorgeous woman in the world. Nothing physically about Renee has changed, but this newfound confidence has offered her a new lease on life and a new perspective of the world around her.

I can already hear the undeserving "Yaaaas Queeeeen!" chants from here.

I Feel Pretty isn't unique in its Big/13 Going on 30/Freaky Friday/17 Again-style body-swap storytelling, which is disappointing considering the script comes from Never Been Kissed's Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein. I commend the duo for creating a film that focuses more on self love than on changing to appease the world around you, but I Feel Pretty still misses the mark on what could have and should have been an incredibly influential film.

Once Renee begins living with her Beyonce-esque attitude, everyone around her seems to be perplexed by her actions. How can she be so confident with that figure? Given that Schumer is not the bridge-troll she once believed herself to be, the reactions of everyone around her are laughably unbelievable. With the revolutionary start of the body positivity movement and the popular #EffYourBeautyStandards mantra adopted by many plus-size women, it's not a surprise that Renee's friends and coworkers can't possibly understand why she's suddenly sowing her wild oats and feeling herself. These people also live in a world that's consistently telling them they'll never be good enough, so there's a lot of projection of their own insecurities in their confusion why someone deemed "lesser than" is acting like they're anything but. The projection, however, feels inauthentic and fails to build up the "love thyself" message.

The moral I Feel Pretty is desperately trying to deliver doesn't even make it out the door. Is it important to preach confidence to women living in a society that tells them to hate themselves? Yes. Is it empowering to see a woman owning her appearance? Yes. Is self love and confidence the key to happiness and success? Hell fucking no.

Telling women that "all you need is confidence" is just as unrealistic as telling children "when you grow up, you can do anything." The only reason Renee feels so confident is because she's convinced she's the hottest babe on the planet. Her confidence is achieved because she's still feeding into the cycle of "look a certain way and you'll finally be happy." It doesn't matter that she still looks the same way she did before her brain injury, she believes she's a knockout and lives in that truth. 

I Feel Pretty also never addresses the privileges already afforded to Schumer for being only slightly less conventionally attractive than the standard. Had this movie starred a larger actress like Melissa McCarthy or an actress of color like Tiffany Haddish, Renee's experiences in the work environment would be a hell of a lot more difficult whether she was confident or not.

Renee's life does seem to turn around once she comes out of her shell and starts living her life to the fullest, but they're all opportunities of circumstance. The beauty company she works for has realized they have to start marketing to "normal people," and therefore promotes Renee to a position. This isn't some great achievement earned, this is a token filler that she happened to fit.

Michelle Williams plays Schumer's boss Avery LeClaire in what is arguably the best comedic performance of her career. She steals every scene she's in, largely due to the fact she's the only comedic presence that isn't hashing out the same "LOL Y U SO CONFIDENT, CHUBBY LADY?" joke that overwhelms the entirety of the film. For die-hard Williams' fans, this is a refreshing change of pace for an actress often pigeon-holed as a distraught lover. Renee's romantic interest is played by the completely adorable and endearing Rory Scovel, who delivers a masterful leading-man debut.

I Feel Pretty is a movie I desperately wanted to champion, but I cannot in good faith hail it as the feminist masterpiece it so fiercely tried to present. Despite what mouth-breathing Redditors have to say about Amy Schumer, she is a revolutionary comedic female performer. Unfortunately, I Feel Pretty does her no favors and her talent cannot save her from a jumbled script and repetitive jokes.
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New Silverspot Cinema to Offer High-End Boutique Movie Theater Experience at Pinecrest

Posted By on Thu, Apr 19, 2018 at 10:48 AM

  • Rendering by Alexis Cogul Lleonart
Among the retail businesses opening up shop at the new Pinecrest development in Orange Village this spring — REI, Whole Foods, Williams & Sonoma, Vineyard Vines, etc. — is an upscale boutique movie theater called Silverspot Cinema.

Silverspot, which is based in Naples, Fla., has three locations in the sunshine state (Naples, Miami and Coconut Creek) and one in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. But this will be its first location in the Great Lakes region for the growing theater chain. In addition to the Pinecrest location, which will open in June, Silverspot will be arriving in suburban Atlanta and Brookfield, Wisconsin, in 2019.

What differentiates Silverspot from mainstream competitors like AMC, Cinemark and Regal, says VP of Programming and Strategic Partnerships Randi Emerman, in a phone interview with Scene, is what she calls a "customer-centric" experience.

"We want to take care of you from the moment you come in until the moment you leave," she says.

At Silverspot, which doubles as a bar and restaurant, customers can reserve their seats and order all refreshments ahead of time. When they arrive, they'll be served at their seats. Emerman adds that, unlike other theaters which serve to seated customers, Silverspot won't serve once the movie has begun.

"We want our customers to enjoy the film," she says. "So we encourage people to arrive 20-30 minutes before it starts."

Emerman says Silverspot prides itself on its technology. There will be no box office, for example. All ticketing will be handled through an app and customer kiosks. Emerman believes that the "architecturally hip" environment (see rendering above) will invite people to have a beer or an appetizer, even if they don't plan on staying for a movie.

"This is going to be a really different experience," she says.

Silverspot will have 10 screens with auditoriums ranging in size from 38 seats to about 150. All screens will feature laser digital projection and all auditoriums will feature luxury recliners (about which we've written before.)

In addition to mainstream blockbusters — "We all love Black Panther. We all love The Avengers," Emerman says — Silverspot will feature a steady diet of indie releases and foreign fare. "We also love The Florida Project," she says. 

New releases will appear alongside one-night specialty programs (operas, ballets, etc.) and monthly film events that Emerman hopes will include panels of local experts to discuss films and engage with audiences.

She mentions, by way of example, the documentary Women of the Venezuelan Chaos, which Emerman says toured Silverspot locations for its North American premieres and included discussions with local professors. She said last year, Silverspot hosted a series of Spaghetti Westerns and offered spaghetti on the menu. 

Emerman says that ticket prices may be a couple dollars more than other theaters — "nothing earth-shattering" — but that food and beverage offerings will be comparable to nearby bars and restaurants.

"This is a place you'll want to be," she says. "It's a wonderful experience. Your seat is waiting."
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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

'I Am Evidence,' Featuring Plain Dealer's Rachel Dissell, is Now Available on HBO Streaming Platforms

Posted By on Tue, Apr 17, 2018 at 4:11 PM


If you missed it at the Cleveland International Film Festival, the Mariska Hargitay-produced documentary I Am Evidence is now available on HBO On Demand, HBO Now, HBO Go and partners’ streaming platforms. It debuted Monday night on HBO.

The film, which features Plain Dealer reporter Rachel Dissell, covers the scandalous backlogs of untested rape kits in multiple U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, Detroit and Cleveland. Locally, this gross mishandling of evidence was investigated by Dissell and Leila Atassi in the aftermath of the Anthony Sowell murders.

Untested rape kits — the result not only of limited resources but of society's unwillingness to acknowledge and prioritize violence against women — have resulted in thousands of subsequent assaults by serial rapists. The film includes heartwrenching interviews with survivors, and it reports on the critical efforts of those working to combat the problem, notably Wayne County (Detroit) Prosecutor Kym Worthy.

I Am Evidence is a searing documentary that bears witness to powerful testimony. And it arrives at a pivotal time, when conversations about sexual assault have, at last, entered mainstream conversation. Yesterday, reporters from the New York Times and The New Yorker won the Pulitzer Prize in Public Service for reporting on Harvey Weinstein and spurring the #metoo movement.

The Cleveland rape kit reporting by Rachel Dissell and Leila Atassi predates the Weintstein revelations, and it is no less important to a conversation that has been overshadowed or ignored for far too long.

In an interview with Glamour Magazine, Hargitay and Worthy said they hoped the film reached a wide audience. “Every time someone sees this film we are talking about a potential juror,” Worthy said.

Dissell, in the film, says that while she knows she can't change what has happened to survivors of sexual assault, her reporting on the failings of the criminal justice system can prevent future rapes.

Go watch this one, and then make sure your subscription to The Plain Dealer is up to date.
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